- Heather Mistretta
The easy way to becoming a better writer in 5 steps
Rather than fill this introduction with a lot of fluff and bore you with some prophetic package of profundity just to prove to you that I can write, I’m going to get right to the point with the following five steps. And remember while writing, don’t be afraid to share your personality. It’s your personality and authenticity that gives your writing color, not the usage of fancy words.
1. Read and then read…and then read some more. What, where and when you read are all not that important. It’s just important that you do read. Reading broadens your vocabulary, opens up your mind to new perspectives and stirs up creativity.
2. Know your audience. The key to good writing is to cater to your audience, not the mainstream. The old one size fits all approach may work with clothes, but it doesn’t for writing. Before you tap out that first word, know who you are targeting with your writing and then refine your scope accordingly.
3. Challenge yourself to remove at least five words from every page you write. Your content will be cleaner, and most likely they won’t be missed. Writing simply does not make you a simpleton. Mark Twain was a master at simplicity and cringed at the sight of superfluous words like very or using utilize instead of use. “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them―then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
4. Check the voice of your sentences and make sure it is an active one. Simply put, a passive sentence is easy to pass. Make it active and grab hold of your reader. Rather than backing into a sentence, go in head first. It will harness the attention of the reader and make them long for more instead of turning their backs. The language will also likely be easier to follow and more enjoyable.
5. Edit. Edit. Ruthlessly edit. I left this last step to the end because that’s exactly where it should be done…at the end. Don’t agonize over every word as you eek out a sentence. Pour out your intentions, feelings and actions on paper or a keyboard and let them flow. It may seem reckless at first, but you will quickly discover that the end result will be more effective and it will sound less contrived to the reader.
Once you’re done with these five steps, ask yourself is it clear, is it concise, is it compelling? If you can answer yes to all three, then you may have arrived as a writer.